There are certain things in this world that have become icons, for whatever reason. In the realm of engagements and marriage, a diamond ring is by far the biggest and most important icon. Even young children will recognize the shimmering diamond ring as a symbol of being betrothed. Why is this and when did it start? More importantly, why are diamonds specifically used for engagement rings? Let us take a look at this common practice, how it began, and where it stands today.
The First Diamond Engagement Ring
Many may not know this, but diamonds weren’t always considered a jewel. When they were first discovered thousands of years ago in India, they were used as decorations and as talismans to keep away evil spirits. Later they were used to “cure” diseases. It was only about a thousand years ago that diamonds were used as jewelry for the first time. Four hundred years later, the first man proposed with a diamond ring. This was Archduke Maximilian of Austria who asked Mary of Burgundy to be his wife. Thus began a custom of proposing with diamond rings, although it was mainly reserved for the upper class. While this was the first documented case of a diamond engagement ring, it is by no means the first engagement ring. That tradition has roots that date back to ancient Egypt when reed rings were placed on one another’s ring finger to symbolize their betrothal. The ring finger was chosen because it was believed there was a vein in that finger that was connected directly to the heart, symbolizing love.
The first engagement rings were far less romantic than they are today. They were less a symbol of love and more a symbol of ownership. Women were given gold rings by their husbands, and metal ones to wear at home, to show that they belonged to their husbands. Diamonds were the original gemstone used in an engagements ring, and once they were discovered in abundance in South Africa, they were marketed by the diamond company as “The” engagement stone one should have. The Great Depression slowed things down a bit, but it picked right back up once the economy strengthened.
Engagement Rings Today
Today diamond engagement rings can be seen in practically every culture. However, even the most Western of countries are starting to include other gemstones into their idea of what an engagement ring should be. This is partly due to conflict, partly to costs, but mainly part of the wave of individuality that is circling most Western parts. Individuals are being encouraged to be themselves and not just do what everyone is doing for the sake of blending in. While this a great sentiment, and many women have in fact gone for other very beautiful gemstones, diamonds are still the mainstream stone for engagement rings. Traditions and habits are hard to break, and diamonds happen to be exceptionally beautiful and durable. That is most likely why they were chosen as “The” engagement stone to begin with.
“Diamonds are forever” and “A diamond is a girl’s best friend” are slogans created by diamond enterprises with the hopes of embedding the idea of a diamond into every woman’s mind. Whether this strategy was successful or not can be disputed, but there is no denying the beauty of a diamond. It is almost impossible to ignore their shine, which is what makes them so perfect for engagement rings. Seeing that shimmering gem when being proposed to takes the whole experience to a whole new level.